Woodworking and gardening are two common passions that are even better when combined. While patios, decks, and fences are the first thing people think of when you say outdoor projects, this article is going to focus on ones that are more of an outdoor feature.
Whether it’s for enjoying the flora and fauna, or for more practical reasons, these carpentry projects for the garden will enhance your outdoor space, while keeping the gardener happy, too.
Raised Garden Bed
One of the most popular woodworking projects for gardens is to make your own raised planter beds. These can be great if you don’t have any lawn or dirt space, a hardscape like a driveway or patio can be turned into a garden easily.
Even if you do have a lawn and garden, raised beds can replace grassy areas you don't use, or allow you to work with better soil. A yard with a walnut tree for instance can make the soil difficult for some plants to grow in, especially vegetables.
Raised beds can be as tall and wide as you want, and are very simple to construct. This DIY project is beginner friendly, and only requires a hammer and nails. You can get your boards cut at a hardware store and even delivered for a price. Then all you have to do is nail them into square or rectangular boxes.
Cedar wood is the best material as it can withstand outdoor conditions, doesn’t have any added chemicals like pressure-treated wood, and it looks great. Height should be at least 10-12 inches depending on what you are planting, so that roots have enough space to grow deep.
On that note of making your own garden beds, if you’re really good at measuring, you could reuse any wood cuts from the beds to make your own single, upright planters with. Hardware and garden stores sell large plastic planters for $100-$200, but you can make your own premium planters out of wood for under $60.
Plastic also tends to wear and look dated after a while, not to mention how gardeners should stay away from this non-biodegradable material, especially when it comes to edible garden planters. Making your own wooden planters isn’t hard at all, but we do recommend using cedar for long-lasting, naturally safe material.
Using the planks length-wise can give you the vertical length you need for this project. You could even cut the boards on a angle to give a vase-like look. Otherwise, you really only need a base to attach the boards to, and a few connecting pieces on the sides and top depending on what style you go with.
A mesh screen at the bottom along with some small rocks and pebbles will help keep plant roots from sitting in water, but we also recommend you drill some drain holes at the bottom for the best results. Most outdoor plants do not like wet feet, and excess water will rot out the bottom of the planter more quickly.
What would a DIY woodworking article be without ways to use wood pallets? The best part about them is that you can find them for free. So many items are shipped on wooden pallets that stores will often advertise any surplus of them on free sites like Kijiji and Craigslist.
Once you’ve sourced them, the options are endless. A simple way to use them without any major tools is to use them as vertical planters. Smaller pots for herbs and cherry tomatoes can be attached to the wooden slats and the pallet can be hung on a fence, or left to lean against a wall. Or you can simply fill up the open end of the pallet with dirt and pop some plants in.
A slightly more experienced woodworker could get adventurous and create a whole patio set out of pallet boards. While you may have to the boards off, clean them up, and reattach them without the nails, you can easily create a coffee table and seating to fit outdoor cushions. This way, you can enjoy your garden space without spending thousands on patio furniture.
Pallets can also be constructed into privacy fences, or used for garden trellises. Vining plants like clematis, grapes, cucumbers, and beans will grow up and in between the slats, giving them a sturdy, but airy place to wind along.
Gardeners need a nice place to sit at the end of a hard day of working in the yard, and a simple bench can be just the trick. The great thing about garden benches is that they can be placed anywhere in the garden: in with the plants so that you get the feeling of being one with nature, or at a distance for a perfect view.
Constructing a bench can be as simple or as complicated as your skill level allows, but any DIY-er can find a project to suit their requirements. For minimal effort and budget, laying a few wide planks along sturdy wooden legs is all you need, but if you want to add a backrest, you can simply add that to the design.
Free plans and ideas are bountiful on the world wide web, and you may even have some materials hanging out in the garage that you can put to good use for this project.
Outside Work Table
What gardener doesn’t need a good table for transplanting, soil amending, and other important tasks? A good work table can take some pressure off of a gardener’s back and allow them to work more efficiently.
The table can also be a good place to lay plants down when dividing root balls, or a spot to do some other woodworking!
This is another project that can be done with scraps, or premium materials, it depends on what your budget and needs are. Some tables are build to have a bottom level to act as a shelf, but this may get in the way of your legs, so choose this design carefully.
A half shelf may better, as it can still store some old pots and tools when you aren’t working, without getting in the way of your shins. It could even be attached to a fence on a driveway, or in a spot in the garden where you don’t have any plants.
The table could also be attached to something else like a sturdy garage wall with hinges so that it can be set down when not in use, and propped back up when needed. A freestanding table might be better for folks who want to be able to move it around. Consider adding lockable casters to your project if you want mobility.
DIY Wooden Lanterns
Outdoor lanterns bring a certain je ne sais quoi to backyard living, especially at dusk when the sun is setting, or when looking up at the stars. Sourcing these at big box stores can be pricey, but making your own is a simple, cost-effective way to get a shabby chic light holder.
Start with two square or rectangular pieces for the top and the base. They should be the same size, but the one at the top should have a hole cut into it so that the flame of the candle doesn’t burn the top.
You’ll need four equal sized posts that join the top and bottom together, and four pieces along the top and bottom that will bridge the posts together. This will give it the basic boxed look of a lantern. Then, add some “feet” to the bottoms: they can be just a few inches to help raise the box off of the ground.
Attach a metal handle or use bailing wire at the top for easy transport. Remember that if you are burning real candles, you’ll want enough space inside of the lantern to hold the candle sizes you like, while keeping the flame away from the sides.
Use smaller sized candles at first if you aren't sure, or battery-powered candles for the safest option. Adding glass panes would make the project a little more intricate, but could easily be added into the design to help keep the wind out.
Outdoor Greenhouse or Shed
Building these structures will take a lot more time, energy, and materials to make, but they're one of the best carpentry projects for the avid gardener. A shed can store plants, outdoor tools, lawnmowers, and other machinery, but a greenhouse allows for plants to last longer in colder temperatures as they provide shelter, but also garner extra heat from the sun.
Greenhouses can also be used to store tools, extra pots and planters, potting soil, and even a small bucket of compost. The size is up to you, but a simple design is all you need to construct a good quality, DIY greenhouse or shed that any gardener will love.
While glass is the first material that comes to mind for greenhouses, there are other, cheaper materials like polycarbonate panels or polyethylene sheets. The bottom half can be all wood paneling, or the reflective material can run all the way to the ground for even more sun exposure.
There are different kinds of greenhouses, so do your research and get some inspiration. You can find six different greenhouse plans for free here. Sheds won't need any reflective material like glass or plastic, but will still need some planning before you build. Both are sold as pre-fabricated units.
Add a Pergola
A pergola can add so much to the garden, especially when integrated into the overall plant design. Pergolas can act as a large trellis system, and vines can quickly thrive and overtake them. Clematis, grape vines, and wisteria are just a few that come to mind.
The pergola can also be used as a shelter for humans to gather, as it offers part-shade from the heat of the sun, but doesn’t take away from the feeling of being outdoors. Pergolas can be free-standing, or they can be attached to a garage, deck, or part of the house.
If you’re running a pergola off the garage or house, this can cut down on some of the materials, as it becomes more of a lean-to and uses the sturdiness of the house. Polycarbonate sheets can be laid on top to provide a rain-proof area.
Pergolas can be added onto or designed along with a new deck. Three posts including a corner post and two on each side need to be taller than the rest of the deck posts. The taller posts are then connected horizontally at the very top by 2x4 or 2x8’s, which creates a triangle. Boards are then attached along the top to create the classic pergola look.
Install a Gazebo
A gazebo is very similar to a pergola, but it tends to have either a pitched or flat roof instead of being open. A old-fashioned garden gazebo is made of wood and has a hexagon design, which looks very quaint in more traditional gardens.
Modern gazebos are linear, and may incorporate metal or include horizontal slats on the sides to give it that contemporary look. There are lots of different inspirations for gazebos, but size and materials will definitely affect a small budget.
For a 12 x 12 gazebo, the basic materials will be around $500, which includes the lumber, screws, and other hardware. If you can do the work yourself or solicit another DIY friend, this will save you about $600 in labor.
You may also be able to find a gazebo kit online or at your local hardware store on sale, but it will be more expensive than buying the lumber and making the measurements and cuts yourself. If that task feels daunting, constructing it will still save you money in the end.
Build a Bird House
Let’s end this article with a classic woodworking project for the garden: a birdhouse. This job is fun and simple—great for doing with kids, or even students. For the DIY-er, a classic birdhouse can easily be constructed out of scrap wood you might have lying around.
A single 8-foot piece of 1x6, 2x8, or even a deck board could be all you need to make this project come to life, as most of the cuts will be similar in size.
The back and front will be the exact same size, and should be cut with a peak at the top to get that classic birdhouse design with a ridge roof. The two sides that join up to the front and back will be equal size, but cut only as high as where the angle starts on the front and back pieces.
The floor can be any size as long as it’s bigger than the width of the sides, especially important at the very front (the birds need somewhere to sit). The two rooftops need to be cut so that they meet at the top and have a little overhang at the bottom.
Last, but not least, the front needs a tiny bird-sized hole added (an inch and a half hole saw on your drill should do it), with some birdseed put inside. Hang it on a metal bird hanger, attach it to a sturdy fence post, or where birds are found the most: a tree.
From simple birdhouses to humble greenhouses, there are a variety of carpentry projects for your garden, no matter what your level of expertise is. Many of these ideas suit all different kinds of budgets, as well.
The cheapest project will integrate materials you may already have, but even if you’re buying lumber new, nothing beats sweat equity instead of paying someone else to do the job. Plus, part of the fun is combining two passions with these fun DIY carpentry projects for the garden.